Gaffe Track: Clinton Can't Help Stretching the Truth About Her Emails

Dave Kaup / Reuters
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The candidate: Hillary Clinton

The gaffe: Speaking to Fox News’ Chris Wallace on July 30, Clinton said of her email scandal, “[FBI] Director [James] Comey said my answers were truthful, and what I’ve said is consistent with what I have told the American people, that there were decisions discussed and made to classify retroactively certain of the emails.” Except as The Washington Post explains, that’s not what he said at all. While Comey said Clinton had not lied to the FBI and recommended against charging her, he was also clear that she had emailed classified material.

The defense: Clinton is right that Comey deemed her not to have lied to the FBI, at least.

Why it matters (or doesn’t): As my colleague Ron Fournier writes, Clinton’s insistence on continuing to lie about what Comey said is puzzling. Even as she has apologized for using the server and escaped indictment, she apparently can’t bring herself to simply eat crow and move on, and instead misstates easily available facts. For a candidate already facing serious trust issues with much of the electorate, that seems unwise. Luckily for her, Trump has decided to launch a feud with Gold Star parents, propose appeasing Putin, and say the election is rigged, distracting a great deal of attention.

The lesson: Keep it straight and the election could be signed, sealed, and delivered to Clinton. Otherwise, the fact-check is in the email.